Jeffrey Kinghorn has a lot of siblings and the relationships between them intrigue him. So Kinghorn, a writer living in Barrington, decided to write a trilogy about sisters and brothers.
The Caldwell Sisters, one of the three plays, will open Aug. 30 and play three weekends at the Players’ Ring in Portsmouth. This is the story of two sisters who have been estranged for most of their adult years but finally come together in Martha’s Vineyard.
“I come from a family of five siblings and it’s always been a very, very important relationship to me,” Kinghorn said. “I’ve not seen that relationship treated dramatically on the stage a lot. Usually it’s the B plot or an ancillary story so I tried to bring it front and center.”
The stories each stand on their own and are connected through the theme of sibling relationships. “The Aspberger Twins” about a brother and sister was performed two years ago at the Players’Ring and “The Meredith Brothers” about two brothers has not been produced yet. “The plays came to me quickly,” said Kinghorn, the oldest of the four boys in his family with only an older sister.
In Caldwell Sisters, the two women have lived their adult lives in two very different worlds, worlds that ultimately did was not enough to make either of them happy. One is a respected, well-traveled journalist; the other married with children and the security of place, family and home.
They come together in the island’s off-season to spend an early autumn weekend confronting each other, forgiving each other, and finally coming to love and understand each other.
As Kinghorn describes the show, it is “fiercely personal and leavened with delicious good humor… a meditation on letting go, of recognizing what is, and of stepping off into the unknown promise of what the future may bring.”
Kinghorn wrote the story for his wife, Deb Kinghorn, and for Raina Ames of Dover, her friend and colleague in the theater department at University of New Hampshire, where they both teach.
“I had them in mind when I began writing,” said Kinghorn, who is also directing the show and producing it with his wife. Together the last produced “The Bodines,” written by Kinghorn as well and staged at the West End Theater in association with the NH Theater Project.
Deborah Kinghorn said she thought her husband saw in both of her and Ames “exactly what he wanted in these two women, so he wrote the show with both of us in mind.” It worked out well for her, he added: “I love working with Raina. We did a staged reading of this two or three years ago. We thoroughly enjoyed working together.”
The show has comedy and drama, but is definitely for mature audiences,” Kinghorn said. “It deals with adult themes, issues and situations.” It is set on a beach in Martha’s Vineyard, and the staging is lean, without a lot of costuming or scenery.
For Deb Kinghorn, the appeal of the play rests in the way it tells a different kind of story, and shows women breaking out of the molds that usually define them.
“The thing I really like about it is that it’s a story that I don’t think we have seen a lot before, about sisters in much later life who have been through a whole lot,” Kinghorn said. As the sisters try to clear the bad blood, “there is a desire to recognize what is good in the other person, not just because she is your sister but also because she is another woman.”
The character given to the women is what Deborah said she finds compelling, “this story about women growing into their strength, and women growing past the limitations the world sets on them from every believable direction. I found that fascinating, exciting and delicious to play.”
Players’ Ring recently announced a new Talkback program after the first Sunday matinee at 3 pm. The first in the series will be a discussion with the playwright Jeffrey Kinghorn Sunday, Sept.1. This is a chance for audiences to become more engaged with the production.
“The Caldwell Sisters” will be performed Fridays through Sundays Aug. 30 to Sept. 15 at the Players’ Ring Theatre at 105 Marcy St. in Portsmouth, with shows Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 3. Tickets are $18 with discounts for students, seniors, and Players’ Ring members. Reservations can be made at playersring.org or 603-436-8123.